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My name is Jeannie Mark

I’m a mid-lifer who quit a growing corporate career to reawaken my passions — and forge a life set by my own rules.

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The Philippines

Figures and Landscapes

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China

Moving Forward

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China

Before You Teach in China, Read This

How a GoPro and Traveler’s Diarrhea Go Together

India

Let’s talk about sh*t.

This was my exact thought as I sat in the dingy waiting room behind the local market — wafts of unrefrigerated meat assailing my nostrils. What I had planned to blurt out to the doctor once I got admittance.

The shores of Goa were just a scooter ride away but I had barely even made it to this clinic because of my frequent washroom trips.

When I went to India, this was not what I had in mind. My belly gurgling and my bowels on fire. I’d hop around while in town to avoid using a public washroom, but leave a trail of dust as I ran to find one. And I tell you, public washrooms in India ain’t pretty.

I saw things in Indian washrooms that scarred me for life.

But back to sh*t. What I meant to tell the doctor was let’s talk about this crap I am constantly dealing with in India, traveler’s diarrhea. An ugly, unspeakable subject for travelers, especially long term ones. We talked about that and cholera (ugh, another travel worry), he prescribed what I needed. I was on my way to recovery. A happy ending.

Via Rail Best Photos: The Food

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Even though my Via Rail journey was a while ago, I remember the food fondly. It’s second to the scenery.

Surprising, I know, to think that food on a train makes a difference in some way, but believe me when you are stuck on a moving vehicle for four days, delicious food is one of the things you concentrate on, besides your sleep patterns and what’s being served at the bar.

Reset your thinking, because train food isn’t just Oreos and Pringles chips, but so much more. No matter if you are first or second class, the dining car was available to both.

Thus I’ve amassed my favorite meals onboard The Canadian. Don’t get too hungry as you read along!

Book of the Month: Unconventional Guide to Freelance Writing

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The good news: there’s a broad market for freelance writing. You can quit your day job and get paid for your writing skills.

The sober news: how in the heck do you get started?

Chris Guillebeau is on fire, has been for a long while. Right now he’s ripping through a nationwide book tour of his latest book, The Happiness of Pursuit, documenting his quest to visit every country in the world and the lessons he learned along the way.

He’s also the founder of  Unconventional Guides, which were designed to give people tools to create something for themselves or craft a life they want.

Bluntly put, he hires smart writers to convey those ideas.

His guide to freelance writing is no different.

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But whoah, wait… what about me?

YES, I am also a freelance writer. I’ve done travel writing, copy writing, educational writing and creative writing. Things I promise to talk more about on this site and in my monthly newsletter.

Right now my brain is lodged with finishing my book that I promised you a hundred years ago.. if you remember that?

Anyway, enough about me.

A Quick Jaunt to Ghent

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Everybody raves about the food scene in Brussels and writes rapturous reviews about the Art Nouveau buildings, focusing on the movement’s founder Victor Horta, but what about Ghent?

Only a 35 minute ride on the fast trains from Brussels (2 to 3 hours on the local slower trains and If you drive, it takes close to an hour), Ghent is the largest Flemish city in Belgium with a surprising younger population flocking there, hipsters maybe disillusioned with the urban decay of Antwerp and Brussels.

It’s place that hugs a cosmopolitan feel with it’s historical past. During the Middle Ages, it was once the most powerful and richest cities in Europe.

A few friends urged me to visit Bruges, a stunning example of a well preserved medieval provincial town but word on the street is Ghent offers the same in a less contrived atmosphere.

I sadly only spent an afternoon there peeping around the castle, but enough to ask again, what about Ghent?

Venice Stops Your Heart

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I once read a TripAdvisor review about Venice. It read, “There’s nothing to do in Venice, except walk around.”

This tourist was missing the point entirely. That is Venice, utterly and to it’s core. A breathing, organic, museum city.

It’s the kind of place that shouldn’t have even existed when you break down how difficult it is to build on a lagoon and interconnect 118 small islands. Like Amsterdam, many buildings were erected on wooden pylons which has its own challenges with rising water and rotting wood.

“Venice is sinking” has been a term tossed around readily by the media, due to the constant shift of the sediments that many buildings sit on and that water I mentioned sadly keeps rising.

So to urgently tell you to see Venice before it floats off to the Po River is not far from the mark.

I compel you to stop fighting what some tourists call boredom or tourist traps and simply accept Venice for what it is. A fascinating, otherworldly experience.

I kept imagining ancient times of men flourished in dress and flamboyancy, women asserting their sexuality and freedom in subtle and coquettish ways — my head swimming with bawdy festivals and lavishly adorned Venetian masks.

Lovely, lovely Italy

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You’re going to hurl shards of glass and bitchy looks at me. For the longest time, I had an aversion to visiting Italy. There, I admitted it.

I’d find myself at the Milano train station, with the full intention to see Florence or Venice but then I’d freeze.

A faint voice originated from the arched ceilings of glass and light, carrying down, and then sonically landing in my ear. “Don’t go.”

It just never felt right at the time, so I’d book a train ticket anywhere else instead. Munich. Paris. Madrid.

It was unfair to Italy wasn’t it?  It’s not Italy’s fault.

Once I finally got there a friend sternly reminded me of something important: 80% of the world’s art is in Italy.

I think Italy has forgiven me, so it’s my mission to do it justice. Thus, I’ll give you a teaser of my time there, with more to come!